JERUSALEM — Israel has taken the upper hand in a new kind of Mideast conflict, one in which bullets are replaced by chickpeas.
Using a satellite dish on loan from a nearby broadcast station, cooks in an Arab town near Jerusalem whipped up more than four metric tons of hummus, the chickpea paste that is a staple — and a near-religious obsession — for many in the Middle East.
The cooks doubled the previous record for the world's biggest serving of hummus, set in October by cooks in Lebanon. That record broke an earlier Israeli record and briefly put Lebanon ahead.
Hundreds of jubilant Israelis, a mix of Arabs and Jews, gathered around the giant dish in the town of Abu Ghosh near Jerusalem on Friday, many of them dancing as a singer performed an Arabic love song to the beige chickpea paste.
Just after midday, an adjudicator sent from London by Guinness World Records, Jack Brockbank, confirmed that the Israeli chefs now held the record. He put the exact amount of hummus in the giant dish at 9,017 pounds.
Lebanon's short time with record
Lebanon and Israel have officially been at war for six decades. Three months ago, when the Lebanese chefs prepared their record-breaking dish, they called it a move to reaffirm ownership of a Lebanese food they claimed had been appropriated by Israelis.
"Lebanon is trying to win a battle against Israel by registering this new Guinness World Record and telling the whole world that hummus is a Lebanese product, it's part of our traditions," Fady Jreissati, the Lebanese organizer, said at the time.
The driving force behind the Israeli hummus dish, Jawdat Ibrahim, an Israeli Arab restaurateur who became a millionaire after winning a lottery in the U.S., played down the conflict, saying "competition is a healthy thing."
"Today we have the hummus. Hopefully, we will have the talks for peace in our region," he said.
The hummus war has been simmering for some time. In 2008, a group of Lebanese businessmen announced plans to sue Israel to stop it from marketing hummus and other regional dishes as Israeli.
Lebanese tourism minister Fadi Abboud said that his country plans to beat the new record in the spring with an even bigger plate of hummus prepared on the border with Israel. "This way they can learn how to do hummus," he said.
"We have no objection that other people do hummus but they should know that it is Lebanese. They (Israelis) should find a name other than hummus because this is a Lebanese name," Abboud said.
Many in the Arab world see Israel as a Western implant in the region, though a majority of Israel's population is of Middle Eastern and North African descent. The chefs responsible for Friday's record were from the country's one-fifth Arab minority.
Israel launched two major military operations against Lebanon, targeting guerrillas threatening Israel's northern border, in 1982 and in 2006. Both campaigns left widespread devastation in Lebanon.
On Friday, a newscaster on Israel's Army Radio referred to the hummus clash as the "third Lebanon war."
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